8 Tips from a Parisian Chef

Cook and shop like a pro with Chef Laurent Delarbre.

How much can you really learn in a weekend crash-course in cooking and market shopping? Plenty, when Café de la Paix Chef Laurent Delarbre is your guide.

1. How do you know you've found good caviar? Grains of the good stuff don't stick together when stirred with a spoon.

2. The sweetest melons at market have a large peduncle (the spot where it was fed by the plant).

3. Dried lentils cook best in pH-neutral mineral water, like Volvic.

4. To keep a whole sole in one piece while cooking, stack potato slices horizontally above and below the tail to brace it in position. Potatoes make excellent wedges, as they are inexpensive and won't fall apart from the heat.

5. For a perfectly circular boiled egg, insert a needle in the round end of the shell to pierce the air pocket.

6. Don't buy perfect-looking produce—this is a practice that the chef says is a common American error. Produce grown without pesticides never looks perfect.

7. Fresh foie gras should be both flexible and firm: a finger poked into a lobe will make a temporary imprint then spring back in place.

8. When buying bread look for: a loaf that is crispy, not soft, to the touch; a light honeycombed center, and a distinctive aroma.

    InterContinental Paris Le Grand's "insider's" gourmet package includes a 3:30 a.m. visit to Rungis, Paris's sprawling wholesale food market open only to professionals; an on-the-fly cooking class; lunch with wines chosen by consultant Eric Verdier; two nights with breakfast in a deluxe room; "menu dégustation" dinner at Café de la Paix, including wine. Six classes scheduled in 2006-07, limit 10 people per class. Rates for two: Euro 3,790-4,030. Tel: + 33 1 4007 3234.

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